BOGOTÁ ( Associated Press) — For four days, the Clan del Golfo intimidated entire populations in at least six departments of Colombia, demonstrating its ability to harass as part of a retaliation for the recent extradition to the United States of its top leader, Dairo Antonio Úsuga David. , better known as “Othniel”.
Made up of heirs to paramilitary structures, the Clan del Golfo declared an armed strike last Thursday, a guideline typically used in Colombia by illegal groups to under threat prevent the free movement of the population by blocking roads and ordering businesses to close or leave. from their house.
“The threats reached the communities through audio, WhatsApp, documents and graffiti,” Adil Jose Melendez, a human rights defender and victims’ lawyer, told The Associated Press on Monday. “They prevented the supply of food to the Montes de María community and there were several murders in the region,” he added.
Although pamphlets have circulated in which the Clan del Golfo would have indicated that the armed strike had ceased since Sunday night, some communities on Monday were still cautious and did not leave their homes freely, Melendez assured.
Elizabeth Dickinson, senior analyst for Colombia at Crisis Group, told the Associated Press that what happened in the zones was “total coercion of the civilian population,” which was in real danger by not following the orders of the Clan del Golfo. “The security strategy of capturing high-value people does not guarantee security for the civilian population,” she warned.
According to the Ministry of Defense, three civilians and three other members of the public force died in the framework of the armed strike. In addition, the Clan del Golfo affected 187 vehicles, most of which were burned on highways. The balance of the Peace Court is more pessimistic, it calculates that 138 communities were confined and 24 selective homicides of civilians were registered.
The Colombian authorities have said that they are redoubts of the Clan del Golfo that do not act as a block but in small groups and to combat them they deployed more than 52,000 members of the public force.
“They want with these isolated, cowardly acts, in different places, to generate a feeling of anxiety in the country. Once again, we are going to show them that the State is above them,” President Iván Duque said in an official statement on Saturday.
The president has said that the Clan del Golfo is decimated by the action of its security forces and affirmed that this criminal group had reached “the end” after the capture of “Otoniel”, whom he called the most wanted drug trafficker in Colombia. , in October 2021 in a special operation deployed in the mountains of the northwest of the country. However, analysts warn that the Clan del Golfo is not defeated.
“When they killed Pablo Escobar they said that drug trafficking was going to end and it turns out that today we have more than when he was there, the same thing happens with the Clan del Golfo, it did not end because of Otoniel,” Camilo González, president of the Clan, told the Associated Press. Institute of Studies for Development and Peace.
The Clan del Golfo, also called the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia or Los Urabeños, is mainly an illegal drug trafficking organization and Colombian authorities estimate that it has 3,500 people among its ranks with a presence in the north and west of the country in the departments of Chocó. , Bolívar, Sucre, Antioquia and Córdoba, the same ones that affected during the armed strike.
The Colombian police have indicated that since the capture of “Otoniel”, the Clan del Golfo is divided and there are at least three visible leaders, for which they offer up to 1.2 million dollars in reward. With the alias of “Chiquito Malo”, Jobanis de Jesús Ávila would control drug trafficking on the border with Panama; José Gonzalo Sánchez, alias “Gonzalito” would be in charge of controlling the regions of Bajo Cauca and Córdoba and Wilmer Giraldo, alias “Siopas” from the department of Chocó.
“They can eliminate or capture very important heads, but what happens is that it is a very profitable business: it is a mafia network, which has politicians, businessmen, people who launder assets. The Clan del Golfo is not just drug trafficking, it has white slavery, illegal gold businesses,” González assured.